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ODE May Consider Evidence of Moral Turpitude Between A Teacher and Student Even After Graduation When Investigating Professional Misconduct

In the case of Bollinger v. Ohio Dept. of Edn., 2018-Ohio-3714, an Ohio appellate court upheld the decision of the Ohio Department of Education (“ODE”) to consider evidence of inappropriate behavior between a teacher and student when deciding to revoke the teacher’s license, even though the most egregious behavior occurred after the student graduated.

This case involved a public school teacher who formed an inappropriate and intimate relationship with a student. The teacher claimed that he was trying to console the student through issues when the two first began communicating privately. The teacher and student exchanged messages and met privately while the student was still in school but the teacher alleged that no inappropriate behavior occurred during these incidents. After the student graduated, the teacher and student continued to meet and had intimate contact.

One of the student’s friends reported the teacher to ODE, who conducted an investigation. Following the investigation, ODE decided to permanently revoke the teacher’s license stating that the teacher had formed an inappropriate relationship with a student.

The teacher appealed ODE’s decision, claiming ODE erred in its investigation by considering details that occurred after the student graduated.  Specifically, the teacher argued that, because the student was no longer a student, any relationship would no longer be inappropriate.

The Ohio appellate court rejected this argument. The Ohio appellate court determined that evidence of an inappropriate relationship after graduation is acceptable so long as it could conclude that the romantic relationship started before graduation. Thus, so long as there is a connection to events that occurred during a student’s time while in school, any events after a student graduates may be considered by ODE in an investigation into teacher misconduct.

To read this case, please click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling, Patrick Vrobel, and John T. Sulik, Jr.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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